08 May Mrs. Cameraman
“Mrs. Cameraman! Mrs. Cameraman!!”
Jerusalem’s Old City. The merchants know how to get your attention – and haggle – in at least 8 languages. That day I was working, shooting b-roll with no intention to shop. Plenty of lessons to learn from those guys (and they are almost all guys) about persistence and hustle. The word choice of their overtures amused me. Ever since that day, I have frequently found myself wondering: what am I?
It’s not an existential crisis (that’s an entirely different thing, and better addressed privately). It’s a practical question – one addressed by the military two years ago. And the civilian world still hasn’t caught up.
With the first Academy Award nomination for female cinematographer just this year, I am not the only one asking the question, though women have been operating film and video cameras for over a century.
So, what am I? Here’s the list of terms I’ve tossed around. Some lofty, some practical.
- Producer. Includes many skills, but doesn’t imply that I have hard core tech skills shooting, lighting, and editing.
- Storyteller. Definitely the reason I am in the video business, but see above re: omitting tech skills
- Cinematographer. Kind of, in that I like shooting beautiful/striking/emotional images. But typically associated with the feature film world rather than the reality-based projects I deal in.
- Camera Operator. Yes, but this label strips the creative aspects of the job – lighting, framing, waiting for the right moment, combining careful thought with instinct.
- Cameraman. But…I’m not a dude. Although sometimes this is the only option for media credentials.
- Camerawoman/cameraperson. Useful albeit a mouthful.
- Videographer. The most accurate and common term that I use. But why does Word’s spell check always underline it in red?
- Lady Cameraman/Female Cameraman – “male nurse” anyone?
If you are female, and you find yourself running around with a camera for news, documentaries, reality TV, corporate clients...what do you call yourselves? Let me know in the comments!